Hot, Sweaty, & Pregnant: How Acupuncture Can Help Swelling During Pregnancy
Updated: Jul 1
Being pregnant in a normal summer can be uncomfortable, leaving you feeling extra sweaty, extra hot, or just plain miserable, and this summer is a hot one! Record high temperatures across the US, often in the triple digits, have been sweeping the country from East to West.
Fluid retention and swelling, also known as edema, is the excessive collection of body fluids in the tissue. It’s a common occurrence in pregnancy, especially in later stages of pregnancy. Ankles, feet and fingers can swell as your body retains more water than usual. It's often worse during hot weather, at the end of the day, and further into your pregnancy. As your baby presses against the veins in your body that carry blood to your limbs, it causes the blood flow to slow down. Water then begins to build up in your extremities like hands, ankles and feet. Usually, due to gravity, the major impact is around the feet and ankles. It can be made worse by standing for long periods of time and warm weather. Mild swelling can be relieved by resting and elevating the feet as well as using compression socks.
According to Chinese medicine, swelling can be caused by poor Qi flow in the body. A weakness of the stomach / spleen qi (that is naturally compromised during pregnancy according to TCM) can inhibit the movement of food and fluids. A weakness of the kidneys to absorb and re-distribute fluid may also be present. The kidney yang governs the water metabolism in the body. When the yang or fire is deficient, there is not enough warmth to regulate fluid metabolism in the body and it will tend to pool.
Acupuncture assists with the reduction of swelling by encouraging blood flow and the movement of fluid throughout the body. This helps to reduce joint inflammation and swelling of limbs. It also stimulates the production of the hormone cortisol, which can reduce inflammation and edema. (1,2) Both acupuncture and moxibustion, a warming treatment, can help nourish the kidney yang, which also helps the baby to grow, and the blood and fluids to circulate appropriately. Acupoints and moxibustion therapy are selected according to the swelling pattern of the patient.
What You Can Do To Minimise Swelling During Pregnancy
Consider if you are getting enough salt. Mineral demands are high in pregnancy. Avoid processed salt.
Limit over standing, and put your feet up when you are at home
If sitting a lot, try and move around regularly – walking is fantastic to get the lymph (fluid) moving
Check out Spinning Babies (spinningbabies.com) for safe and effective exercises to do during pregnancy.
Ensure you are drinking enough water
Avoid caffeine, sadly even if you are on that odd cup of tea or coffee! Try replacing it with a tea that is safe during pregnancy
Eat whole goods and avoid processed foods. Plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains, full fat dairy products, organic meats and nuts